Jeff Bezos’ big 60 Minutes reveal: Delivery drones and (get this) private cloud

Most of the Twitter response to Amazon(s amzn) CEO Jeff Bezos’ star turn on 60 Minutes focused on Amazon’s plans to offer drone delivery of small packages in the not-too-far-off-but-unspecified future.

Bezos showed off the small helicopter like devices, actually octocopters, to the always credulous Charlie Rose and no doubt they are cool — although you have to wonder what could possibly go wrong. This meaty tidbit reaffirms what Gigaom’s Signe Brewster reported earlier, that consumer drones are coming and nothing screams “consumer” like Amazon’s retail services.

Still, the biggest surprise for me came when Bezos, unprompted, referred to the planned cloud that Amazon Web Services is building for the CIA as a private cloud. He didn’t even stumble on the word. Funny, since at AWS Re:invent last month, top AWS execs Andy Jassy and Adam Selipsky went to great pains to not characterize that installment as a private cloud. That’s because the religion at AWS is that there is no cloud other than public cloud.

But I’m showing my bias there. Let’s return to the drones — er “octocopters” — that Bezos was so thrilled to talk about. He characterized them as autonomous vehicles (so maybe not drones at all?) that fly to pre-set GPS coordinates. He foresees them being able to deliver small packages — up to 5 lbs — within a 10 mile radius of a distribution center. He gave no timeframe and acknowledged there is work to do.

“The hard part here is putting in all the redundancy, all the reliability, all the systems you need to say, ‘Look, this thing can’t land on somebody’s head while they’re walking around their neighborhood.”

So he added:

“In urban areas, you could actually cover very significant portions of the population. And so, it won’t work for everything; you know, we’re not gonna deliver kayaks or table saws this way. These are electric motors, so this is all electric; it’s very green, it’s better than driving trucks around. This is…this is all an R&D project.”